‘This is too much about preserving this great republic, and I think we ought to leave it up to each member to decide how he or she would like to vote…’
(Ben Sellers, Liberty Headlines) Once again, Democrats have moved the goal posts in order to temper public expectations about impeachment—this time saying to anticipate even more defectors from their own party.
House Majority Whip James Clyburn said Friday on CNN’s “New Day” that despite House Speaker Nancy Pelosi‘s announcement that Democrats would forge ahead on the charges, they were unlikely to have unanimous consensus to make it even a party-line vote.
“We do expect to lose some, and that’s why I say it is a conscience vote,” Clyburn said, according to the Washington Free Beacon.
Counting formerly Republican, pro-impeachment defector Justin Amash, I-Mich., Democrats hold a 37-seat advantage.
However, two Democrats—Reps. Collin Peterson of Minnesota and Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey—already opposed impeachment in the formal House vote to initiate the process.
Van Drew issued a warning recently, indicating that the hearings in the House Intelligence Committee had failed to sway him in favor.
But as popular support for President Donald Trump saw an uptick in the immediate aftermath of the hearings, all signals suggest that more Democrats may follow suit.
A margin of just 17 more defectors on the Left would result in a catastrophic failure of the impeachment articles to pass at all in the House.
Much focus now is shifting to the 31 Democrats who won seats last year in districts that supported Trump in 2016. But several others have put up warning signals, including Rep. Brenda Lawrence, D-Mich., a formerly pro-impeachment Detroit congresswoman who last week suggested a censure would be the best solution before backpedaling.
Rep. Joe Cunningham, D-SC, similarly hedged by issuing a statement recently that condemned Trump while insisting that he was “withholding judgment on whether our President should be impeached until hearing all the evidence and ideally, hearing directly from the whistleblowers,” reported WCSC.
There is little likelihood that the so-called whistleblower, presumed to be CIA agent Eric Ciaramella, will testify before the House prior to an impeachment vote.
Even the most ardent impeachment advocates, like Rep. Al Green, D-Texas, while expressing unequivocal support, have indicated recently that it isn’t actually necessary to prove Trump broke the law.
As a result of the uncertainty, Clyburn claimed he wasn’t actively keeping score or pressuring his party-members to follow suit.
“I think it would be a bit unseemly for us to go out, whipping up a vote on something like this,” he said. “This is too serious. This is too much about preserving this great republic, and I think we ought to leave it up to each member to decide how he or she would like to vote.”
But that is a far cry from Pelosi’s earlier insistence that the House would only move forward with bipartisan support.
Although she has since justified the party-line-only support by attacking the GOP, any amount of Democratic opposition could, at the very least, undermine her claim that opponents were being driven by corruption and blind loyalty to Trump.
Pelosi, herself, has also sought to move the bar after originally suggesting a Thanksgiving impeachment vote and later floating a time-frame that would put it around Christmas. On Thursday, she said that the measure was too “complex” to happen by then with less than a month to go.
However, the farther the House pushes back its vote, the greater the risk becomes that a Senate trial would encroach upon the Democratic primary season, which begins in February.
The stakes of Democrats’ gambit are particularly high—not only because the 2020 election is on the line, but also because in their efforts to impeach the president, Democrats themselves have engaged in the same type of misconduct, coercion and political retaliation that they have accused Trump of committing.